This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series, which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons, who have lost 6 straight and are in as bad of shape as the 76ers, but feature Andre Drummond one of the best young bigs in the NBA.
After the jump, I’ll look at Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Detroit team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com, as Dan will answer Fo’ questions on his Pistons squad from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) Proof of Life: The 76ers got embarrassed in their last two L’s at home vs. Minnesota and on the road in Cleveland. A long, but successful (4-2) west coast swing was the justification by many for the Sixers’ pathetic play in those two contests. Well, the 7-6 have now had two straight days off to rest and practice. Additionally, they face a Pistons team that has lost 6 straight (and 8 of 9) including a 112-91 defeat at Atlantic Division-leading Toronto on Wednesday night. The Pistons are also 4-12 since Dec. 7th. So tonight I don’t want to see a lack of energy or weary legs from this young Sixers’ roster. Nobody has ever died from a long NBA road trip. Stop making excuses, act like you actually care and compete vs. a team that is on the ropes right now.
2) Thad & TWroe: Thad did not look lethargic on Tuesday night, but he did miss all seven of his shots while failing to manage a point for the first time in almost three years. I want to see Brown call his number early and often tonight and get Thad’s career year back on track. Wroten will return tonight after missing the last two games because of illness. That’s good news because despite being out of control at times, the Sixers need his 13.8 points, 3.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds coming off the bench. The 2nd unit is useless without him.
3) Hawes vs. Andre Drummond: The rising NBA big man hung 31 & 19 on the 76ers back on December 1st. If the Sixers are to win this game, someone on this roster has to show some pride and take it on themselves to slow down Drummond. With Lavoy Allen out for tonight’s game (no comment) and Daniel Orton now on the street, that challenge will fall in the lap of Spencer Hawes. C’mon Spence — you can do it. YOU CAN DO IT!
4) Can the Sixers Defense Make A Stand?: As I mentioned, Detroit (14-22) has lost six in a row. According to ESPN.com, over those six contests they are averaging 88.8 points on 40.6 percent shooting — 26.1 from 3-point range during that stretch. Additionally the Pistons have been turrible (Barkley voice) during the second half over those 6 games — 38.3 points per game while hitting 36.4 percent of their field goals. We all know the 76ers are the worst defensive team in the NBA (111.1 points per game) and that their ability to defend the 3-ball is nonexistent. Still, during the last 3 games of the west coast swing their defense suddenly became, dare I say…respectable. However that new found defensive effort was completely MIA during the two games after the long road trip. The 31 & 18 point margins of defeat in those games only provide further evidence of this fact. I’d like to see that decent “west coast” defensive presence resurface tonight and help the Sixers secure a win.
Q&A with Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com:
Philadunkia: The Pistons have dropped 6 straight and eight of nine overall. From what I am reading online and have seen on NBATV it seems a lot of the blame is on poor play in the second half of games. Can you relay to us what is happening to the Pistons in the 2nd half of games?
Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com: It’s tough to say. The Pistons are worse in almost every way after halftime, which seems like a coaching issue, but when the problem is so wide, being specific is difficult. If I had to pick one thing, though, it’s Brandon Jennings taking over more than he should.
Philadunkia: Last time these two teams met, Andre Drummond hung 31 & 19 on the 76ers in a very dominant effort. Will Cheeks call his number frequently on Friday night?
Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com: The Pistons don’t really call Drummond’s number. He gets his point on lobs and offensive rebounds when they’re available. Nine of those 31 points you mentioned came directly off offensive rebounds. If Drummond hits the glass and runs the floor hard, which he usually does, he’ll produce. It’s more in his hands than Cheeks’.
Philadunkia: Between the Josh Smith run-in and a month long stretch filled with losses, is 76ers legend and former Sixer head coach Mo Cheeks on the verge of losing this Pistons locker room?
Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com: Maybe, but Cheeks has several things working in his favor. I think these Pistons respect Joe Dumars enough to at least try to bite their tongue about coaching grievances during interviews, which is the same reason I think the Pistons mostly internalized their problems with Lawrence Frank last season. Plus, after Cheeks was hired, the players spent a lot of time praising Cheeks as a person just to make Frank look worse by comparison. I think they know if they complain about Cheeks now, they’ll be contradicting something they said recently and will want to avoid admitting their own mistake. As far as Smith specifically, I think he wants to shed the “difficult” label he developed in Atlanta. I don’t know whether he has the patience to do that, but I believe he’s trying.
Philadunkia: At the 2013 Draft, a lot of “experts” liked Caldwell-Pope for the 76ers. Overall his numbers seem mediocre, but he looks to have been playing better of late. What’s your analysis of Caldwell-Pope so far this season?
Dan Feldman at pistonpowerd: After spending much of his season as a sub–30 percent 3-point shooter, Caldwell-Pope has been shooting much better from the perimeter lately. His defense has been a big positive on a poor defensive team, but I don’t think he’s anything more than a slightly above-average defender right now. Still, for a rookie, that’s pretty good. There have been very noticeable growing pains, but he’s doing enough for now.
Thanks to Dan for his time and answers.
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